As 2015 goes — what stays?

Trump at a campaign rally, Sept. 2015.

Our son Graham and our daughter-in-law, Amy, made it home for this year’s Christmas holiday. No snow, but our time together was no less sweet for that.

This year’s mild weather was actually a relief. Loved ones traveled with relative ease, there was no need to bundle up.

Let’s face it: it was also nice knowing that 2015 was finally coming to an end.

This has been a particularly turbulent year. If 2015 had been an airplane ride, most of us would have been reaching for barf bags. Terror, foreign and domestic, seemed a constant theme. The dark side of human behavior on permanent display.

The impact on our politics was not encouraging. In August the first of an interminable series of Republican presidential scrums — they called them debates — took place in Cleveland. Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? But there, much to the amazement of the pundit class, Donald Trump, a loudmouth billionaire, stole the show. He’s been on a roll ever since, stomping his competition in the polls and prompting commentators across the country to wonder when the so-called “Republican Establishment” would step in and restore order.

What seems increasingly plain is that said Establishment no longer exists. One can only pity the self-described Republicans of a certain age, those who hearken back to the Grand Old Party days when being Republican suggested a certain boardroom decorum, the congeniality of regular dividend checks, country club dances and deference for one’s betters — a party, in other words, that could at once include Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater.

That party’s been hijacked, taken over by a paranoid population that’s always played a part in our politics, but usually at the margins. These are folks who, for whatever reason, have forever had their doubts about the American experiment. As far as they’re concerned, this place is never not going to hell in a handbasket: It’s morally bankrupt, economically corrupt, racially impure, soft, lazy and godless.

Oddly enough, they consider themselves patriots.

Just as oddly, Donald Trump appears to be their man. Or maybe it’ll be Ted Cruz. In any event, what we’re seeing — what the mainstream press is hard-pressed to acknowledge — is the transformation of the Republican party into something completely different.

Under these circumstances, the continuities provided by the season, with family and friends, have been especially prized. Once again we climb into the attic, haul down the boxes filled with decorations and lights. We head over to the root beer stand to buy a tree from a local farmer. Recipes clipped from old newspapers, or written by hand are found folded into books. It’s time to put a fire in the fireplace.

There are songs we only listen to at this time of year. Kinds of food we find delicious but otherwise never touch. There is plenty of butter. And plenty of time for sitting together, having another cup of coffee, and remembering who we are and where we come from.

This has been a mild winter so far, a quiet way to end the year. A lot has changed, to be sure, but so much that really matters is still the same.


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